Tom Marquand counted his blessings after fate contrived to give him a first domestic Classic triumph in the Pertemps St Leger on Galileo Chrome at Doncaster.
When the four-day meeting began on Wednesday, the 22-year-old rising star had been booked for English King – but when it became apparent that horse would be heading for the Grand Prix de Paris on Sunday, he was without a ride again.
But as happened in this year’s Derby – when he lost the ride on English King and was snapped up instead for Khalifa Sat and was second on Andrew Balding’s 50-1 outsider – there was a twist in his favour.
As Marquand arrived at the start on Sacred before Doncaster’s Flying Childers Stakes on Friday, he was told he was going to partner Galileo Chrome for Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien – after Shane Crosse had tested positive for Covid-19.
He had to pinch himself, but it turned out to be a dream of a spare ride.
Marquand shows maturity and ability way beyond his years – and to win the world’s oldest Classic, founded in 1776, was just reward for his talent.
He said: “I can’t say how bad I feel for Shane Crosse – because we’ve all been in situations where things haven’t gone our way, and we’re both relatively young – so I can relate, and he’ll be sat at home in pieces, no doubt.
“I guess in racing it all comes back round. No doubt he’ll have his time, and I look forward to seeing him do it.
“I’ve never met Shane in person. We’ve both only been riding a relatively short time – and I guess, without the restrictions over the last few months, he’d have been over here and I would have come across him.
“I’ll certainly have a chat with him later on.
“It really is a dream come true. Classics in Britain are some of the hardest races go come across. Group One races in Britain are equally hard.
“To have my first Group One winner on UK soil in the St Leger for Joseph O’Brien who, when I as growing up was one of the best jockeys in racing, is mind-blowing.”
Marquand spent a lot of this winter in Australia, and enjoyed a highly-successful time with two Group One successes.
Apart from the odd minor blip, 2020 has continued to be the year of a lifetime – despite the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Time and time again this year, it’s all fallen my way,” he said.
“I had a few minor bumps in the road, but I wouldn’t mind the rest of my career going that way.
“It’s incredible how racing works everything out. I lost English King in the Derby but rode Khalifa Sat for Andrew Balding and finished second.
“I got English King back for today, and he has ended up going to France for a more favourable race (for him).
“Obviously I couldn’t go there, because I would have to do a week’s quarantine afterwards – which wasn’t something I could do – and Shane Crosse’s misfortune has luckily for me ended in my lap.
“I was able to have a good look at this horse’s form when I was in my hotel room. It looked like the mile six and a half would be within his reach, and he has shown today what a horse he is.”
Marquand’s partner Hollie Doyle has had a record-breaking last 12 months herself, setting a new highest tally for most winners by a female jockey in a year and having already reached a century earlier than she did in 2019.
He stressed how proud they are of each other’s careers.
“There is no top dog in the house,” said Marquand.
“We are both really fortunate to be in the position we’re in and have the run we’ve had over the last couple of years.
“We are both proud of each other’s achievements – and long may the household continue on this path.”